Few days ago, I had a chance to sit down via Zoom with British progressive metal band Monuments vocalist Andy Cizek and drummer Mike Malyan. Though oceans apart, it felt like any regular conversation, relaxed and fun, only thing missing was some beer. Monuments are set to release their fourth studio album called In Stasis on April 15th, so this conversation was purely dedicated to their new record. Preorders for In Stasis are available, HERE
Andris Jansons: In couple words, introduce fans what they can expect from the new album “In Stasis”, which comes out in just about one week.
Andy Cizek: I don’t know. I guess in a couple of words I would say it’s – heavy, conceptual, cohesive, and badass. What are your buzzwords, Mike?
Mike Malyan: Like polarizing, easy and difficult listening. I mean, those two. Polarizing is in opinion wise.
Andy: Because of power struggle.
Mike: The concept of the album is the power struggle between two opposites and the music to be expected. Sonically is half trackable songs and half songs that go off the beat.
Andris: Little more in depth. Your album. Your feelings and your message.
Andy: You want me to sort of dive into that? The concept of the album, as it’s called “In Stasis”, it deals with themes of equilibrium and power struggles and being stuck in the middle, whether it’s good and evil or a relationship, a power struggle in that regard, or maybe something a little broader, like empires rising and falling in power. I just sort of tried to embody a common theme of tug of war in each song, but in different ways. So, some are more personally relatable and then others are like, it gets existential about it. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form, and what comes up must go down and things like that, basically.
Mike: I feel like the conceptual side of all of this is very much it’s not my natural strength. I tend to just go for the musical details, but basically just to mirror what Andy said alongside the whole, the interesting developments on the concepts from the instrumental initial ideas to Andy’s take on it, to even the imagery take of it. I feel like there’s just so many angles, each song and I hope there’ll be discussions on what it means for everyone for a while. If that happens, then I think it’s done its job.
Andy: No, I think you’re right, man. I think that me and Brown, when doing the concepts, we tried to leave them open ended. So that way there is room for discussion. And what the song meant to someone might mean something else.
Andris: When you write something, it comes directly from you. How much of this album was your personal experiences in life versus, let’s say, philosophical approach to general issues?
Andy: It was probably 50/50 for me, and I imagine Brown would stay the same. We wrote a lot of the concepts and some of the lyrics together.
Mike: As I say, I tend to take a back seat on it, but I really feel like it’s all 100%. I mean, drums aren’t really from either a philosophical or a real thing. They’re kind of just the drum. But as far as writing goes, I did only one song that I was the primary writer on, which was “Somnus”. I feel like the idea of that was entirely that the conceptual side of it was entirely Andy’s embodiment, which I absolutely love. But the idea of the impossibility of sleep, some are tapped into the emotions I was feeling while I wrote it, but my feelings didn’t have a name. They just had a color if you know what I mean. They got away with words in that sense. It’s all from the heart. The literal embodiment of it is what I say. Literal. Like, when it’s written, that’s where my kind of journey ends with it. It’s why I struggle with lyrics a lot, because they feel more like colors and shapes to me than they do specific words. It’s what lets them be free and interchangeable, and you can just kind of tap into the raw emotion of it.
Andris: Well, the music is how the feelings sound.
Andy: Mike is communicating in beats. (laughs)
Mike: Tension versus release. In that sense, another type of war. Yeah. The variety is everywhere, the spice of life.
Andris: Next question is really in two parts. When you enter the studio, you had your thoughts on new music, how that will sound, what will be told with it, and then how you looked at this album postproduction, when it was already made, how your thoughts and your feelings were changed from the day you entered the studio till you saw the finished product.
Mike: That’s an interesting question. We had an interesting process. We recorded the first song for the record “Lavos” and we kind of committed to at the time it was just a drum sound. We did the final drum recording and none of the rest of the songs were really written. “Cardinal Red” was the next song that was kind of being written, but we were like we’ll just record the drums, the same way every time we have loads of notes, but by the fourth time when we did the drum tracking to finish the last songs, we just go back and write a bit more track drums. And then Brown would track his bits and then we’d go back write more, track a few more. I’m amazed the whole thing sounds as similar as it does considering that it was so many different sessions, but by the fourth time we were in there, we saw that the record concept had truly taken shape, so I guess it’s really interesting because conceptually we froze in time before the record was even in the middle. We just kind of set it as a singular sound from day one, and just to see where it goes. But yeah, it really wrote itself, didn’t it? The concepts aligned themselves in central place.
Andy: Yeah, it’s kind of funny we didn’t really plan on writing a concept album, but it became that. Slowly but surely a lot of the themes that Brown was bringing to me, I sort of noticed a bit of a pattern, and so I leaned into that with the whole equilibrium and stasis idea. I think that I probably had more of a rigid idea of what it was going to sound like versus how it came out in the record. I mean especially working with Nick Gordon. And it feels like it was like more of a living breathing process than just what I envisioned, it would be something a lot more straightforward and it was just brought to life in a way that I never expected, while working with different minds it just turned out to be something cool and interesting, that I couldn’t possibly have come up with by myself.
Andris: For now, you have released three singles, “Lavos”, “Cardinal Red” and “False Providence”. How these songs intertwine into the whole album itself. And are there any surprises for fans when they will hear the whole album?
Andy: Mikey probably could answer the first bit better than I can, but you know, obviously there is a good surprise for the old fans. We didn’t think about necessarily the fact, that we were introducing the songs in a specific order. We knew we wanted four singles from day one, we really struggled with it because we accidentally felt like we wrote a bunch of songs that could all fulfill the role of being a single. We’re happy with the fact that none of the songs feel like filler. I guess “False Providence” was an interesting one, because that was our mix engineer George and our co producer Mick Gordon pick. They decided that was their favorite song that they heard not just from “In Stasis”, but it was their favorite Monuments song they’ve heard. So, we just trusted in them entirely. I think people who don’t know what kind of vocal features to expect will be very surprised by the way that those vocal features work. Those who expect the easy listening will be surprised by the complicated stuff in there and those who really want the complex stuff are going to be surprised by the ease of listening.
Mike: To elaborate a little further, I think this record has more of a common ground than some of the previous Monuments efforts. It just feels more cohesive, but it still has those little diamonds in it where it gives you a lot of replay value. You can come back and hear something new with repeated listens. Also having spencer from Periphery on the record is a nice little surprise. And having Neeme who was a vocalist of Monuments over a decade ago, bringing him back is also a nice little easter eggs.
Andris: How this album stacks up to the previous works of the Monuments?
Andy: It’s hard to say because I’ve only been in this for a new release and a handful of singles. I just came in and tried to complement what was already happening with the band, sort of seeing the elements that I thought that I could put my own interesting twist on them but leaving the spirit of the band intact.
Mike: I’ve got another weird perspective, because unlike Brown, I haven’t been in the band for all four albums, I’ve only been in for the first two, and then took a break due to injuries for four or five years and then came back. When I left in 2014, the band was in a bit of a broken state and the way the albums had been written, the instrumentals would have to be as close to finished as they could be. And probably there was a bit of perfectionism going on with us. That was not necessarily helpful. And then the vocals would just be slammed on at the end. Coming back after five years, being out into this fresh, excited environment where Andy’s energy just turned everything into a much more positive experience. Not only that, but he also collaborated with us in a way that no singer has ever done before and collaborated with us in a way that no member inside Monuments had ever truly collaborated, and at that high level of perfectionism. And just leaving space for each other to fill. It was a completely unique experience. And from that point on this is now Monuments. What we did before, was literally just a learning curve. I don’t want to go back to the old ways. This way was beautiful. The process is so different, in a good way. It’s like a little bit of a rebirth. We completely threw away all the dysfunction, learned how to talk to each other and trust in each other, and not take criticism negatively. It’s a beautiful thing. I think that there’s a sense of a strong communication present throughout the album process that allowed us to get it done. And in a way that we never would have been able to do, doing all that remotely. Our communication had to be strong.
Andris: I don’t really want to touch anything other than this album at this moment. Just my last question, for now you will be touring Europe and you also have Hellfest lined up. What’s next?
Mike: We will just kind of start off with the UK tour and then there’s the Hellfest and a bunch of European dates. We also have North America touring plans which we have yet to announce. But it’s just been one of those post covid difficulty things. Other potential shows around the world to be announced. Hell yeah, It’s exciting stuff.
In Stasis tracklist:
1. No One Will Teach You (feat. Neema Askari)
3. Cardinal Red
6. Arch Essence (feat. Spencer Sotelo)
8. False Providence
9. Makeshift Harmony
10. The Cimmerian
In Stasis credits:
Produced, Recorded and Edited by John Browne, Andy Cizek and Mike Malyan
Co-Produced by Mick Gordon
Additional Engineering by Ross Halden, Justin Woodward and Adam Steel
Additional Editing by Charlie Abend and Evan Sammons
Mixing by George Lever @ G1 Productions
Mastering by Jens Bogren @ Fascination Street
Artwork by Visual Amnesia